Colombo: Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma flew into the Sri Lankan capital on Saturday, marking the arrival of the first dignitary for the CHOGM 2013.
Sharma, a former Indian diplomat, has been criticised for allegedly siding with Sri Lanka over human rights abuse charges, an issue that has cast a cloud over the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s participation in the summit is still uncertain.
The 54-nation Commonwealth grouping was under pressure to change the venue for the summit in view of the allegations.
Side events will kick off tomorrow in the southern port town of Hambantota.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa will declare open the 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum, a five-day event which heralds the formal beginning of CHOGM events.
Under the theme `Inclusive Development Stronger Together`, the Youth Forum will provide a platform for youth leaders across the Commonwealth to exchange ideas and cultures, to build skills and network and to work towards identifying challenges to the youth.
Meanwhile, the chief guest at the CHOGM, Britain`s Prince Charles, and his wife Duchess of Cornwall will be on a three-day tour of the island, British officials said today.
Outside his CHOGM duties, Charles, who is representing the Queen, has several engagements to promote friendship in the former colony of Sri Lanka.
On his third visit to Sri Lanka since 1998, Charles will visit the central districts of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in addition to his engagements here.